((you’ve seen @beetasays twitter! Anyways, here is Safavid Iran offering Ottoman Turkey some “hospitality” in an unspecified year between 1605 and 1618 CE, a time of peace.
This type of rhetoric was not uncommon in the context of the Ottoman empire and Safavid Iran’s dynamics in the religious realm. Though in this proverb, the condemnation even extends towards Iran’s linguistic ubiquity. Persian held a different esteem from Ottoman Turkish, being associated with mysticism, poetry, and cultural prestige. It was used as the lingua franca in Mughal India’s royal court and court culture and as the official language of administration in Transoxiana. Promotion of Ottoman Sunni orthodoxy versus the early Safavid extremism became touted in times of war, which neither the Ottomans or Safavids were lacking between them. The beginning of competing religious views between these two regional powerhouses lies in the emergence of Shah Ishmail and the Qizilbash in 1500/01 CE. Shah Ishmail’s rapid, decisive conquests incited religious and territorial anxiety among the Mamluks, the Ottoman empire, and the Shaybanid Uzbeks. Shah Ishmail is often labeled simply as ‘Shia’, however, it is more accurate to define his ideology as a mixture of radical interpretations of the Ismaili school and some aspects of gnostic thought, “albeit with some loose, allusive connections to the Shia mainstream.” Shah Ishmail’s political legitimacy was based in the belief, collectively held by his militant and devout followers such as the Qizilbash, that he was a divine leader [This aspect of Safavid rule would die with Shah Ishmail, as his successor, Tahmasp the I, denounced the divine character of the Shah, thus beginning the gradual shift towards Twelver Shiism. Though this transition did not quell religious tension, as even into Shah Abbas the I’s reign in the 17th century, Ottomans continued to refer to Safavid Iran as a heretic state]. Stories of anti-Sunnism, massacres of Sunnis [the truthfulness of these stories is debated], and the act of sabb [vilifying of the ‘Rightly Guided’ Caliphs of Sunni orthodoxy. In context of Safavid practice, it is addressed in the various Ottoman-Safavid peace treaties] by the Safavids alarmed Iran’s neighbors [these stories were told by a number of Iranian Sunnis who fled]. For the Ottomans, reactions were especially visceral and their objections to Shah Ishmail’s empire resulted in pejoratives such as “rafidhi/rafezi/ravafiz” [meaning heretic] and the “Qizilbash state”. The Mamluks, however, carried out regular exchange of emissaries with the Safavids, offering gifts and entertaining them as guests, though conscious of the perceived Safavid threat. Shah Ishmail’s symbolic gifts for Qansawh Al-Ghuri, the Mamluk sultan, were a prayer carpet and a Qur’an. These two items acted as a means to “emphasize that the Safavid government was Muslim and a performer of prayer” and refute the Ottoman accusations of heresy. Selim the I wrote to the Mamluk Sultan, Qansawh Al-Ghuri, a response to the Mamluk Sultan’s letter suggesting that the Ottomans and Safavids compromise in 1516: “My war with Ardabil Ughili [Shah Ishmail] is for religion, not kingdom. If I intended to conquer territories, Europe would be nearer and better than ruined Iran. As long as Ardabil Ughili does not repent, change his atheistic ways…content himself with Bayazid and ignore other lands, I will never compromise” [translation in Rasool Jafarian’s “The Political Relations of Shah Esma’il I with the Mamluk Government, 1501-16/907-22” used]. Though Selim the I suggested his goal was to eliminate the Safavids, this was used as a pretext to disguise his true intentions of annexing Mamluk territory, which he accomplished in August 24th, 1516.
The Battle of Chalderan occurred in 1514, west of Tabriz, between Ottoman and Safavid forces [personally led by Shah Ishmail]. Selim the I wrote a letter to Shah Ishmail before the battle and states: “You no longer uphold the commandments and prohibitions of the Divine Law..Indeed, as both the fatwas of distinguished ulama who base their opinion on reason and tradition alike and the consensus of the Sunni community agree that the ancient obligation of extirpation, extermination, and expulsion of evil innovation must be the aim of our exalted aspiration…” [translation in Ernest Tucker’s “From Rhetoric of War to Realities of Peace: The Evolution of Ottoman-Iranian Diplomacy Through the Safavid Era” used]. The Battle of Chalderan ended in the devastating Safavid defeat by the Ottomans, due to the fact that the Safavid arsenal consisted of swords and spears while the Ottomans wielded advanced artillery [This would be rectified during Shah Abbas the I’s reign, when he appointed two Englishmen, Anthony and Robert Sherley, as military advisers to modernize his army]. This was a psychological blow to Shah Ishmail, effectively shaking his image as divine ruler, and caused him to withdraw from personally participating in future battles. This, in turn, led to a political crisis in Iran.
The Battle of Sufiyan occurred in in 1605, in Sufiyan, Iran. The Ottoman Chronicler Ibrahim Pecevi says of the Ottomans’ defeat by Shah Abbas the I in the Tarih-i Pecevi: “In short, it was a shameful defeat such as the Ottoman Empire had ever seen. May God Most High never let it happen again! Amen” [translation in Colin Imber’s “The Battle of Sufiyan, 1605: A Symptom of Ottoman Military Decline?” used]. Before Sufiyan, The Ottomans were already fighting a two-front war, with conflicts versus the Hapsburg in Hungary and with the Jelali rebels in Anatolia. The Ottoman empire could not afford to fight on a third front, and Shah Abbas succeeded in retaking Tabriz and other areas in 1603/4. Still, Safavid artillery and their form of siege warfare were outdated in comparison to the Ottomans. However, what did allow the Safavids to defeat the Ottomans was Shah Abbas the I’s skills as a commander, as he was “adept at learning lessons from the enemy, exploiting opportunities, and maintaining the morale of his men”.
Note: It must be remembered that while I focus here on the religious aspect of the Ottoman-Safavid relationship, it was not the main component of said relationship. These religious tensions were no doubt a backdrop to their relationship, convenient for war rhetoric, but it would be overstating its role to suggest religion was the primary source of the rivalry. The Ottoman-Safavid war campaigns were ultimately results of territory/border disputes and regional empire politics, not religion. Outside of these wars, both empires engaged with each other economically through trade and sent emissaries. Also note that Islam is not monolithic, is composed of numerous schools of law and interpretations, and both sects have large and localized branches.))